Uptown is Missing a Creative Hub. Who will lead the way?
Art and Uptown go hand and hand. Murals adorn walls on various streets, these are artistic expressions created by everyone from children to established artists.
We walk by them so often it’s easy to pass by without appreciating the message they carry or just the beauty of the composition.
I recently spoke with Colette Adams about the organization she created a few years ago in an effort to bring together the artists of Uptown. The space, housed at the Bradley center, was meant to serve as a studio and a creative hub where artists could collaborate while creating their work. The Uptown Arts center thrived with renown artists such as Lowel Tompson as residents.
Lowel Thompson, is the man responsible for creating the Colored Wheel which you can’t miss as you walk along the intersection of Broadway and Lawrence.
Lowell told me he was the third person to join the arts center in the early days. He shared the space with another resident who did carpentry. Lowel’s medium includes photography and painting. He created a photography series titled Chicago for Real where he set out to depict the city much like a photo journalist would, as he puts it “I capture the human animal in an unnatural habitat which is the city”.
When the pandemic came the center was forced to shut down along with the Bradley Center. Colette Adams went to Albany Park and began working on a new concept which she hopes will have broader reach than Uptown.
That, however, leaves something of an artistic hub void in Uptown.
Where do Uptown Artists Go to Create?
There’s uncertainty even for the location because the Bradley Center could be changing hands in the future. There’s also a void in having a leader and advocate for the arts in our neighborhood. The colorful murals that adorn our street walls are part of our neighborhood identity. You don’t see this in Lincoln Park or Rogers Park, certainly not in the Gold Coast. So why are we not putting the spotlight on our local artists and creating a space where they can continue to bring art and culture to life?
Rogers Park has the Green Leaf Arts Center where artists have access to a shared studio space and are showcased on the GLAC website.
A Vacant Role
Uptown has an unpublished job opening for a local leader who will take on the task of creating a work space for artists. A space that also serves to bring together the local community to support these artists by buying the art. It sounds simple but of course, it is not.
Until that person(s) comes along, artists like Lowel Thompson will continue to work at their craft in whatever space they are able to find.
May not be ideal but it will do until the next Colette Adams comes along.